Educate, Liberate, Innovate: Transcending Boundaries in Prison and Post-Prison Education
September 9th, 2023 marks the 52nd anniversary of the Attica prison uprising, during which hundreds of men incarcerated at Attica banded together, after years of abuse, to take control of the facility until their demands were met. The men’s demands were simple: better living conditions and opportunities to improve their lives. The same spirit and belief in the transformative power of positive programming can be found in people pursuing higher education while incarcerated today. Directly impacted practitioners offer not only lived experience, but also expertise and scholarship honed through academic study and training both inside and after prison.
In the first two years, the Rise Up conference drew over 1100 registrants and raised over $50,000 to fund the conference and compensate directly impacted presenters for their time, expertise, and experiences. The conference had speakers from throughout the US as well as from around the world! We were honored to hear the stories of system-impacted individuals who have been released and are now working in incredible positions once thought unattainable, including physicians, lawyers, directors, professors, accountants, and more. We hope to expand on this incredible start with our third annual Rise Up conference in September 2023.
Higher education in prison is a field that has experienced a period of rapid expansion over the last twenty years. Although there is a lot of discussion in this field about the importance of including directly impacted people, it is rare to see spaces where those directly impacted people are leading the conversation. Many college-in-prison programs include directly impacted people as tokens on panel discussions, but rarely are they included in leadership positions. The time has come for those with lived experience to set the full agenda for the conversations we believe need to be had. While there is value in working with those who were not incarcerated as collaborators and thought partners, these conversations must be led by those affected by college in prison programs. After all, our expertise and perspectives should be strongly valued in the field, because we lived through it and thrived!
Several partners have come together to work collaboratively and collectively to create this truly innovative conference. We are now seeking partners and sponsors to help us make this vision a reality. Some benefits of sponsoring these efforts include:
Building on last year’s momentum, we too need to keep the fight going as we lend our voices to the current landscape of higher education in prison. There are a number of opportunities and threats currently facing the field of higher education in prison.These include the reinstatement of Pell and TAP grants and the struggle to defend quality education against for-profit colleges and tech companies. Lastly, it is critical that directly impacted people inform the ways our field responds. The leadership of HEP needs to improve and our voices need to be heard.
The time to form a collective power and act is now. We owe it to those we left behind and those who are to follow. The two-day virtual conference will be held on September 7th & 8th 2023, and will be governed, designed, produced, and led by directly impacted people.
“Do not silence my voice by trying to speak for me and
do not think you have a better plan for my life than I do.”